This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them— since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
- Paul was coming to Corinth for the third time.
- Every charge made must be established by at least two or three witnesses.
- Paul has already warned those sinned before and everyone else.
- Paul warned them while he was there as well as when he was away.
- When Paul comes, he will deal with the unrepentant sinners harshly.
- The Corinthians could see proof that Christ was speaking in Paul.
- Christ did not deal with the Corinthians weakly but strongly.
- Christ was crucified in weakness.
- Christ lives by the power of God.
- We are weak in Christ.
- Paul lived in Christ.
- Paul was weak in Christ.
- Since Paul lived in Christ, Paul will deal in harshly with the Corinthians because Christ will deal harshly with the Corinthians.
- The Corinthians were to examine and test themselves to see if they were in the faith.
- Jesus Christ was in the Corinthians if they were in the faith.
- Paul hoped the Corinthians would find out he was in the faith.
- Paul prayed the Corinthians would not do wrong.
- Paul would rather the Corinthians pass the test of faith even if it meant the he failed the test.
- Paul could not do anything contrary to the truth.
- Paul was glad the he was weaker than the Corinthians.
- Paul prayed for the restoration of the Corinthians.
- Paul was hoping his chastising them before he came would cause them to correct themselves and he would not need to deal harshly in person.
- The Lord had given Paul authority to discipline the Corinthians.
- Paul did not want to use the authority the Lord had given him to tear down
- Paul wanted to use the authority the Lord had given him to build up the Corinthians
In the beginning of the chapter Paul’s tone is sharp. It is sharper than it has been. This is because he is addressing particular individuals not the whole body of people. These are the people, up to this point, he has been talking about. He tone is harsh because he would not have been kind to have mild tone.
Every charge requires two or three witnesses. Paul shows that he is the first and second witness. He witnessed their sin twice, once in each of his first two visits. He is saying “I may only be one person but by coming a third time I have the authority of three witnesses.”
Paul is setting the example of a good pastor. Like a good parent he bears and forgives many things. A poor or foolish parent has no regard for his children. They and neglects to discipline when there is proper occasion to use it. Like a good parent Paul mixes strictness with mildness.
What type of discipline could Paul use? He has already chastised them with words. There is little doubt Paul intends to use excommunication.
One of the charges against Paul was he was weak. Paul reminds them Christ showed signs of weakness in His death. Yet His life through His resurrection shows great power.
Those who deny the divinity of Jesus misuse the passage, “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God”. The church fathers explained it this way. Christ offered himself to die. His constraint was not of necessity. He weakness was voluntary.
We should take care not to err in the opposite direction that is, ignoring his humanity. Christ chose to put on a mortal body. If we make Christ’s human nature unlike our own, we lose the main support of our faith. We should understand it like this. Christ died. Being God He could have exempted Himself from it. But nonetheless, He suffered through weakness because He emptied Himself.
We are weak in Him. To be weak in Christ means we partake with Him in His weakness.
Paul tells the Corinthians to test their salvation. These words comfort us in that they help clarify the doctrine of the assurance of faith. We can be sure. Paul has the Corinthians examine their own lives for evidence of salvation. What would the test be for salvation; Trust in Christ (Heb. 3:6), Obedience to God (Matt. 7:21), Growth in holiness (Heb. 12:14; 1 John 3:3), Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23), Love for other Christians (1 John 3:14), Positive influence on others (Matt. 5:16), Obedience to the apostolic teaching (1 John 4:2), and Testimony of the Holy Spirit in them (Rom. 8:15, 16).
Paul’s had no power to do anything other than promote the truth. This passage illustrates the limits of power pastors should have. Pastors are to be ministers of the truth. There are pastors who abuse their power. They assume unbounded authority while they are, at the same time, enemies of the truth. They, themselves, must be subject to the truth.